If you missed part 1 that covered the team overview and the offense, here is the link.
The Tulsa Defense
Before I get too far into this, I thought I should point out that Tulsa runs a 3-3-5 defense (everyone remember the 3-3-5?). Well if you don't remember the 3-3-5, is a sorta hybrid of the 3-4 defensive scheme that is usually meant to hide the defenses size issues while creating matchup problems for the offense. The main thing you need to understand about it for the sake of our matchup with Tulsa is that compared to a more traditional 4-3, there will be more small, speedy guys on the field operating under more of a bend-don't-break philosophy, and they will take more risks at forcing turnovers and big losses.
When running any scheme that features a 3-man line, the nose guard has possibly the most important job on the defense; fill up a lot of space in the middle so the linebackers don't have to cheat up and leave tons of gaps. At NG for the Hurricane is first year starter Darrell Zellars (Jr 6'2 300) who had 67 tackles and 4 sacks last season at the Juco level. With 26 of those tackles going for a loss, he obviously possesses a good push to get into the backfield, and if he can accomplish that at this level, Tulsa should be solid in the interior. On the ends are returning starters Odrick Ray (Sr 6'3 275) and Cory Dorris (So 6'4 275). Despite being roughly the same size, Dorris is considered more of a speed threat while Ray is more of a beefy line clogger. However, Dorris is coming into 2010 twenty pounds heavier than last season so he should be in better shape to hold his own up front. Dorris has been named to the C-USA preseason all-conference team.
At linebacker, Shawn Jackson (Fr 6'0 230) looks to step in right away and take the starting job at MLB. Jackson has great size for a linebacker and judging by the fact that he was a dual-threat QB in High School that rushed for 2224 yards and 28 TDs his senior season, I would guess he has a ton of athletic ability. The Tulsa Media Guide says that his father is Prentiss Elliot, but I'm pretty sure it is mathematically impossible for it to be THAT Prentiss Elliot. On the strong side will be Curnelius Arnick (Jr 6'1 230) a returning two year starter also has good size for meeting RBs at the line, as well as enough speed to have decent cover skills. On the weak side is another returning two-year starter, Tanner Antle (Sr 6'4 228). Tanner will be the leader of this linebacking corps and is coming off his best season with 78 tackles and 2.5 sacks. The two returning LBs are looked at as a strong spot on this defense, and will be leaned upon heavily to try to keep opposing teams from running at will.
On to the Secondary, where in Tulsa's case, the position names get weird, and the small, speedy dudes come into play. At the Spur position (aka: the 5th DB) will be first year starter Trent Wilkins (So 5'11 200), who has that ideal "tweener" size that will allow him to act as a linebacker or a DB depending on the situation. At Bandit (which, like the Spur, is a LB/DB hybrid player that can line up basically anywhere on the field depending on the offensive formation and the defensive playcall), will be Charles Davis (Sr 5'9 180) who received a medical redshirt after suffering an ACL tear three games into last season. Davis is proven having recorded 78 tackles in 2008, and 73 in 2007. At free safety is Dexter McCoil (So 6'4 190), who recorded 75 tackles last year as a freshman. The long, lanky, athletic speedster has put on 15 pounds in the off-season which should have him ready to be even more of a force back there this year. Like the Spur and the Bandit, in the 3-3-5 the FS can be expected to move up and act like a linebacker in plenty of situations.
Finally, at the corners we have Justin Skillens (So 5'9 180) and John Flanders (Jr 5'10 175) who will both be making their first appearances in a starting role. Proving he is versatile, Skillins was a receiver last season yet looks in line to start on defense this year. He has great speed and reach which should allow him to play a little bigger than he is, which he will need as you gotta think opposing QB's will be looking to attack the first year defensive player. Flanders did actually start in a few games last season at Bandit, but was mostly used as a rotation guy. This year they will be looking for him to step up and fill a need at cornerback.
I'll go ahead and
say type it, this could be a scary team. While calling their defense "suspect" might be kind, there are so many playmakers on the offensive end that this team looks capable of surpassing their 30 ppg average of a year ago. So the porous defense combined with a potent offense means that once again Tulsa games will be some of the most entertaining to watch. This is a game a lot of people are overlooking, but with the talent they have, and their knack for getting up for these O-State matchups, this game has some of the makings of a potential upset. While I won't officially predict a loss, I am officially a little worried about this game. Act accordingly.